Last week, the organized Jewish community hosted a very unfunny roast of BDS entitled, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign Against Israel: Bad for Jews in Seattle and Beyond. It was a full house as Ari Shavit and a Detroit African-American pastor who’d been hosted on multiple Aipac-sponsored Israel junkets comforted Seattle Jews with the message that BDS was anti-Semitic, racist and guided by a malevolent wish to destroy Israel. The minister was invited to dispel the odious notion that boycotting apartheid South Africa could have anything to do with boycotting Israel. No one could attend the community event without first applying. This assured that it could control the audience and would know who was attending. I find such a policy to be objectionable and stifling, much like the Israeli policies which these Israel Lobby events promote.
The false claims offered last month are part of an orchestrated Israeli government program meant to demonize both BDS and similar pro-peace projects. This program has been given the unwieldy, but suitably nasty name, “delegitimization.” I posted here my own response to last month’s event when I first heard about it.
Then I vowed, as I did when a similar anti-Iran hate fest was organized by the local Jewish community, I would produce an open public event that explored BDS dispassionately, fairly and accurately. Such an event would give the entire community (Jews and non-Jews) an opportunity to learn about the movement supporting BDS, what it is and, equally as important, what it isn’t.
BDS encompasses a whole range of issues that impact Israeli society: from the Right of Return, to ensuring equal rights for Israel’s Palestinian citizens, to ending the Occupation. Another hot-button issue is academic boycott, which particularly affects both Israeli institutions and American academics who join the BDS call. Essentially, BDS is a first step to re-envisioning Israeli society relieved of the burden of oppression, racism, and colonial rule. What would such a society look like? That’s some of what you’ll hear at this panel discussion.
I’m delighted that Stanford Professors David Palumbo-Liu and Joel Beinin, and Antioch University Prof. Nada Elia have accepted invitations to discuss the issues. We will meet on Friday, June 20th at 7PM at University Temple in the University District. I especially thank Rev Rich Lang for his hospitality in offering us his church for the event. It will be co-sponsored by: Palestine Solidarity Committee–Seattle, NW BDS Coalition, American Muslims of Puget Sound, and Jewish Voice for Peace—Tacoma.
I note that another venue which I’d approached, and which had a long history of dedication to peace in the Middle East, declined to either sponsor or host the event. Members of the committee which rejected the event felt that BDS was too controversial and that hosting it might harm the institution’s reputation. Only if I added a BDS opponent to the roster would sponsorship be possible. That’s ironic because no one demanded that the Jewish community add a pro-BDS speaker to its program.
This shows the extraordinary impact of the Israel Lobby’s demonization campaign. It shows that even the liberal pro-peace community has been spooked by BDS. It shows that despite recent victories which have made the movement even more powerful and effective than previously, there is still a residual level of ignorance and fear around the issue.
If those who rejected this program are truly sincere and not just timid liberals, they will attend this event and learn what BDS really is. They will learn that having the event at their institution would’ve been the right thing to do because it would have educated the community on this important issue. Rather than harming its reputation, refusing to host the event might cause more harm.
For those who can’t join us but would like to support this effort, I invite you to send a donation either via Paypal or WePay (in my sidebar). The latter donations are tax-deductible. It will defray the travel costs and rental of the venue for the event. An excess will be given to a national BDS organization.
Richard, Great idea. Hope it works out with a large audience. Can you find a way to reach out to the “established” Jewish community nearby?
Please ask the audience, at the event, how many have gone to JCC (or other) anti-BDs events. Be nice if there are many. And how many essentially know nothing about BDS. Be nice if there are many. Otherwise your event may be a bit like our traditional “preaching to the choir”.